Instead of individually going through everybody, I will cover the shared requests for a number of urgent debates with a commitment to look for them if not next week then at very earliest the week after.
One of these debates is on the obvious stimulus needed for all of the industries detailed, not least of which are hospitality, tourism, arts and entertainment. In all of the grants that have been established in recent weeks there are hits and misses. There are people who were excluded. Obviously, I am very hopeful that the July stimulus package will address all of the concerns we have but our concerns need to be heard. I will request the various Ministers with responsibility for tourism, transport, enterprise and the economy to come to us at their earliest convenience to have our views heard and all of our ideas put on the record. I will do this as soon as I can.
Another vital debate needed is that on the reopening of our schools and universities, not least with regard to how we are going to get our pupils to the schools, teach them and make up for the ground we have lost. This is notwithstanding the tremendous job that parents have done trying to cope with home schooling in recent months. I have been there myself and it was not the easiest thing in the world to do. It is a very important debate that needs to be had. We will make these requests today and I will come back to Senators at the earliest convenience to make sure it happens before we go into recess, whenever that happens to be.
Senator Cassells asked about IDA Ireland investors. It is a moot point for us in Meath because we have had very few visits in recent years. The problem is there will not be any visit from anybody in any county over the next 12 to 18 months. This needs to be addressed in the July stimulus package and we need to support IDA Ireland to keep the foreign direct investment we already have in the country and make sure we maintain it and look forward to seeing how we can encourage positive input and new developments in the country.
Senator Black spoke specifically about a debate on Covid payments. Again, I expect this to be spoken about in the July stimulus package. I invite the Senator to bring the concerns she has, particularly with regard to seasonal workers, our artists and the entertainment industry, to the debate we will have on the July stimulus package.
Senator Ó Donnghaile called for a debate on a shared island. With the Senator's indulgence, I think it would be better if we allowed the group that is to be established in the Department of the Taoiseach a while to get bedded in and meet their counterparts in the North. The North-South Ministerial Council meetings will happen in the week beginning 20 July. If the Senator does not mind, I will try to schedule a debate for September. I believe it is something that needs to happen sooner rather than later.
Senator Bacik asked for an debate with the Minister with responsibility for children. I will request this. Given our profile of work for the coming weeks it may not happen until September but as soon as it can happen I certainly will arrange it.
I am not sure, with regard to Senator Boyhan, that the Connemara sheep association has ever before been mentioned in the Seanad but it is very apt. I for one did not realise how much difficulty the business is in. Given that sheep rearing is an enormous part of our heritage, the Senator is right and I will write to the Minister to request a body or task force be established to show pride in the industry.
Senator Casey also spoke about tourism and it will form part of our debate during the summer. In response to Senator Cummins, I have good wishes for the planning decision that will be issued tomorrow for Waterford city. I very much hope it is positive. I will also write to the Ministers looking for shovel-ready projects to bring forward in the national development plan for immediate assistance and the resources required for investing. Balanced regional development is very important for the Government. This development would be perfect in the region and it would be a huge statement. I will write to the Taoiseach today to express the views of the Senator.
Senator Higgins called for debates on statutory homecare and direct provision. While I know these issues are incredibly important, the debates will probably come at the very beginning of September, if that is okay with the Senator. To answer her other questions, once the Committee on Procedure and Privileges is established after the motion is passed today we will sit down and raise what it is we would like to do and reintroduce and how quickly. Ministers are reading into their briefs and I know how difficult that can be. I had the luxury of having the summer in 2017 to do so and perhaps Ministers this year will not have that luxury. On this basis, we will establish a timetable of what we would like to do. I have made a request to have written responses for Commencement matters until they resume but I do not see why they should not be able to resume next week or the week after. Let us talk about that and we will have a meeting of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges at the earliest date we possibly can so we can address the issues the Senator has outlined.
Senator Gallagher has raised a real issue for us in the House that the tourism VAT rate has been reduced to 5% in Northern Ireland, and more power to the Northern Ireland tourism industry for which it is welcome.
It definitely does, however, put our Border counties at a distinct disadvantage. Perhaps we can bring the matter up during our debate on the July stimulus package. I will come back to the Senator when I find out when the SME task force will be established.
Senators Ahearn and Carrigy both brought up specific issues with schools in their localities. Again, I suggest that, once we reinstate Commencement matters, they invite the Minister to come to the House and get direct answers. In the meantime, I was making inroads yesterday into finding out how I might establish a process for Members of this House to have access to parliamentary questions, which we have never had before. I will pursue this. I do not see any reason we cannot have such access. Perhaps it would be time-consuming and would involve an administrative burden, and perhaps in the first instance, if we are successful, we might put a limit on the number of questions we can ask until the process is bedded in, but I will definitely pursue the matter in the coming weeks.
The question Senator McCallion raised she raised with me the other day. I am very pleased to say the North-South Ministerial Council will meet for the first time in nearly four years, which is really welcome. As I said the other day, I myself never got the opportunity to participate in it, but it is really good that it will now meet. It will meet, I think, on the week beginning 20 July. I also take on board the fact that previous commitments were made in respect of investments in the A5 and Ulster University's development. They need to be followed up on, notwithstanding, obviously, that the world has changed and our economy is in very much a different place from where it was six months ago. Commitments are commitments, however, and they need to be restated in whatever shape or form possible.
Senator Davitt talked about the remote working consultation, as did many other Senators. It is really welcome. In my time as Minister with responsibility for employment affairs, it was something we tried to get off the ground. As Senator Currie knows well, Grow Remote is an absolutely wonderful organisation. Businesses were tinkering with this but not as wholeheartedly as they are now. Other Senators brought up the fact that there is a real problem with remote working. All the benefits are very obvious to us and we all know them: there is less traffic and there is more time at home with our children. All the positives are great, but a real issue is well-being and positive mental health for people who are isolated and who do not meet anybody at the water cooler or down in the canteen. We need to address these issues and encourage and perhaps incentivise businesses to put in place good practices. Tax incentives and breaks are very welcome but we also have to be cognisant of the fact that all employers have a responsibility to their employees. That means good posture where they sit at home, not just at the kitchen table. All these things need to be talked through, which is why the consultation is very welcome.
A number of Senators mentioned the coach industry. Again, I think it should form part of the July stimulus package debate we will have.
Senator Dooley talked about restarting the economy. Perhaps we will try to schedule four or five hours of debate on this and break it down between our tourism and our hospitality sectors and assisting all our businesses with the incentives they need.
One thing we definitely need is a debate on the Moorhead report. While I know the report was a very valuable exercise, some of the language used in it was very disrespectful. I say that having been a councillor and having had an incredibly enjoyable experience with Senator Keogan over a number of years. What the report tells me is that its authors do not really understand what it is councillors do and certainly do not appreciate the value of the public service our council colleagues offer all the citizens of this country. We therefore really need a debate here so we can express the value of the public service our 900-plus councillors give every single citizen in the country and so we can see, as Senator Keogan said, the proper pay and working conditions that should be the right of every single worker in this country extended to our council colleagues. I will establish that debate as quickly as I can.
I join Senator Warfield in expressing our gratitude to the front-line services for their exemplary behaviour and service practice towards our homeless community, not just in Dublin but indeed throughout the length and breadth of the country. The number of cases and deaths were nearly a miracle but show the dedication, support and the excellent services they already offer, which perhaps is not as commended as often as it should be. There were premises available that might not have been available in days gone by, when we had other kinds of industries taking up those premises. We have them now and we need to make sure we do not lose them. We need to make sure that these people are given proper routes to establish a proper, new lifestyle for them. I join with Senator Warfield in saying "bravo". They did a wonderful job, as they did in Kerry, Limerick, Galway and all the other counties.
I am learning this job. I did not realise I had to answer everybody's questions every day and I ask Senators for a little latitude until I get my act together. However, I am very grateful to be here.